Things changed for the Dead in 1987 when its “In the Dark” album went mainstream. The traveling fan caravan was reenergized with a younger audience that romanticized the hippie era, and the following swelled until the Dead became a stadium act.
Legendary concert promoter Bill Graham came to Las Vegas to see Frank Sinatra and wondered how many Dead Heads would visit Las Vegas. The challenge was to play Las Vegas without seeming institutionalized at a casino amphitheater and to try and make the experience fit within the Grateful Dead experience. The Silver Bowl was outside of the city and so allowed the bands to play in a less stultifying environment.
Santana put on a great opening set and then the Dead came out and opened up the floodgates to one of the best shows of 1991. The second show was the most memorable, featuring a 17-minute, first-set “Bird Song” with Santana matching Garcia and then raising him. The two shows sold out 39,000 tickets each well in advance, making it the first time the stadium ever reached capacity. During the 1990s, The Grateful Dead played a total of 14 shows at the Silver Bowl, the last being in 1995.